EUGENE - Two years ago the Ducks made the trip to Boulder with star running back LaMichael James and starting quarterback Darron Thomas sidelined. In their absence, the team didn't miss a beat, beating Colorado 45-2.
With all-purpose back De'Anthony Thomas likely sidelined Saturday with an ankle injury, it will come upon Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner to fill the roles Kenjon Barner and Bryan Bennett filled so seamlessly in 2011.
Tyner can relate to Thomas' injury', he had his college debut pushed back a game due to a similar injury this season. But the Aloha High star is excited for the opportunity to gain more reps this coming weekend in Boulder.
"Last week against Cal, I think that was a big step for me, playing pretty much the whole game. I got a lot of experience. I'm a lot more comfortable going into the Colorado game," he said Wednesday.
The expectations have been high for the state's most prolific high school running back, and the transition not without its difficulties. According to Tyner, the biggest change has been the speed.
Tyner got a taste of that speed on the Ducks' second drive of the third quarter, when he tried to run off tackle, but retreated backwards losing nine yards.
"Coming from high school, I was used to dancing around. College is so much faster. It's one cut and you've got to go, because everyone is so much faster," Tyner said.
The way to overcome that change is with power, something he's worked on since arriving in Eugene, being more physical and not hesitating to lower his shoulder, Tyner says.
Tyner learned another lesson on his first snap of the game against the Bears. With under a minute to go in the first quarter, he busted through the Cal front seven, before doing something no Duck had done all season, fumble the football. It was the first Duck turnover of the year.
"Marcus told me right before I went out there, when we were on the field 'Just hold onto the ball'. Then the ball came out," he said with a smile.
"It was wet, but I can't let that be an excuse. I just need to hold onto the ball tighter. That was all my fault."
"The talent is better. They're playing better. That's why we don't' worry too much about them, we worry about us.
On his team's depth:
"I think we have a lot of young talent, that just needs to play. I think we have a lot of guys that just lack experience. When you say a guy has potential, usually waiting for something to click… guys just need to play.